Cellular Rights of Rescission

Bill could give cancellation rights to wireless phone users in California.

by / March 6, 2003
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- People who sign a wireless phone contract would have 30 days to pull the plug on the agreement if SB 128 becomes law. The bill was introduced today by Sen. Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach).

"Buying wireless service isn't like buying a DVD player because you can't 'road test' it while you're sitting there in the store," said Bowen. "There's no way to really know if your wireless phone is going to live up to the promises made by the salesperson until you start using it in your everyday life."

Under SB 128, people who sign a contract with a wireless phone company would be able to cancel that contract within 30 days if they find the service quality doesn't meet their needs. Anyone canceling a contract would have to pay for the minutes used during that 30-day period and for any wear-and-tear on the telephone itself (if applicable).

"The technology has come a long way, but as every wireless user knows, calls still get dropped, there are still 'dead zones' where you can't get signals, and static can still overwhelm you depending on when and where you use your phone," continued Bowen. "Since most wireless service plans require you to sign a one- or two-year contract, a 30-day right of rescission is perfectly reasonable."

SB 128 is virtually identical to SB 1601 (Bowen) from 2002. That bill made it through the Senate with the same 30-day notice requirement now found in SB 128, but SB 1601 was amended in the Assembly to provide for a shorter 14-day notice. Bowen then dropped the bill, since the 14-day requirement would have been weaker than a proposal pending before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to provide people with a 30-day notice. The PUC is slated to take up that proposal as part of the larger "Telecommunications Consumer Bill of Rights" in late spring or early summer.

The Office of Senator Debra Bowen